EV Battery Safety: Addressing Concerns in the Transition to Electric Mobility

EV Battery Safety: Addressing Concerns in the Transition to Electric Mobility

As the world transitions towards electric vehicles (EVs), concerns have arisen over the safety of their battery packs. Lithium-ion and lithium-metal batteries, commonly used in EVs, can undergo a process called thermal runaway, which involves a rapid increase in battery cell temperature and pressure, potentially leading to fires and explosions.

These batteries present particular risks when overcharged, short-circuited, submerged in water, or damaged. Several automakers, including Tesla, Chevrolet, Hyundai, and Ford, have faced criticism due to reported battery fires.

Despite these concerns, players in the Kenyan e-mobility sector emphasize the need for caution. By employing battery swapping cabinets and automated systems to prevent overcharging, companies like Arc Ride aim to minimize the risk of fires. They also incorporate safety measures such as canisters that automatically release to extinguish any potential fires within the cabinets.

Lithium ion phosphate batteries, while less common in EVs, offer increased safety compared to lithium-ion batteries due to their lower propensity for combustion and thermal runaway. Their longer lifespan also makes them more suitable for home use.

As EV adoption accelerates in Kenya, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) projects that EV prices will reach parity with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles before 2025. EV company Roam highlights the importance of safety triggers to detect and prevent battery malfunctions, including temperature and current control, as well as extended life testing to monitor battery performance over time.

Research conducted by the National Fire Prevention Association has revealed that extinguishing EV battery fires requires significant amounts of water due to the potential for re-ignition even after the fire appears to have been put out.